3.16.14 The Promise
2 Lent A March 16, 2014
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son…
For God so loved the world, that he gave so many people even before Jesus was born—people who were entrusted with prophecy and leadership and compassion.
For God so loved the idea of the world that he created it and put the first humans there to live in peace and obedience, and to till the earth. And we know that wasn’t entirely a success—we RED that story last week in the Book of Genesis.
God so loved the world that he started over again with Noah to try to re-establish good and kind people to take care of each other. That didn’t work out so well, either. Noah made a mess of things after the Ark landed.
God so loved the world that he endowed people with skill and reason. And they built a tower in Mesopotamia that was an attempt to be as high as God was over all the creation. And as punishment for their hubris / they were scattered over the earth, each with different languages, each unable to communicate with the other.
But God so loved the world that he then invested his creative and saving energy in one man, Abraham. And God’s calling of Abraham to be his agent to begin a great people who would bring blessing to the world is the story we have before us today.
This story, from the 12th chapter of Genesis, is considered to be the first “historical” story in the OT. The stories before this one—the Adam and Eve story, Noah, the Tower of Babel—these are all considered “prehistorical” and quite frankly possibly mythical (meaning that they teach truth, but probably not literally.)
So Abraham is considered to be a real, historical person. He lived probably around 2200 BC or maybe 2000 BC -- a good 4000 years ago. And God’s calling of Abraham is the huge, pivotal event that sets in motion the history of the Jews, the Muslims, and the Christians. Nobody’s kidding when they call Abraham our father in faith.
So our reading comes so early in the story that his name is still “Abram,” before God changed it to reflect his role as father of multitudes [Genesis 17:5]. Today’s 4 little verses are pregnant with significance. We might say there are 3 main parts to this little story—the command, the promise, and the obedient response.
God commands Abram to GO. He is to leave almost everything: note the descending order here—his country, his kindred, and his father’s house. He’s to go out of what he knows as his land and his people. He’s to leave his big extended family that gave him the sense of where he belonged. He is to leave his household. He’s to leave everything that gave him his identity—EXCEPT for one thing. His wife. Sarai, his wife, went with him.
And it’s a very good thing—because her role later on was pivotal, as we know.
Now, we hear God telling Abram to GO—but where? Abram isn’t told where. Oh, that must have been really difficult for him. “Where? Well, you’ll see. Just trust and you’ll find out.”
I don’t know about you but that would have driven me crazy.
So that is the content of the command from God: Go where I will show you.
Now comes the PROMISE. There are several promises here, actually. First, God will make Abram a great nation: in other words, he’ll have many descendants—so many, in fact, that they are uncountable.
Next, God will bless him—and I think his descendants as well. To bless is to shine favor upon someone. To speak well of them. To shower them with grace and goodwill. God will do these things for Abram and his people. God will also make their name great – he will give them great renown. And, of course, they will be a blessing to others all over the earth.
God will bless the ones that Abram’s people bless; and curse the ones they curse. And through Abram and his people all the families of the earth will be blessed.
For God so loved the world that he called Abram to be the Father of a very great people, a people who brought blessing to ALL the families of the earth.
And finally this passage ends with the Obedience piece. All we hear is that Abram went, as the Lord had told him. What a test of his faith, just to go somewhere, unsure of the destination, but knowing that God is leading the way. Remarkable.
But wait a minute! Doesn’t that happen now and then in our regular lives, as well? For God so loves the world that he calls us to go to new places and engage in new experiences—because we will be a blessing to others, too.
I think back on those times of discerning the best path forward in my own life. I remember hearing the call to go to the college I chose the best I could. I remember trusting that things would be ok 4 years from then at graduation time, even though I had no idea of what might happen or where I might go afterward. I know that through those 4 years I was mightily blessed, and I was privileged to be a blessing for others, one of whom sits in this church today.
The same was true for the decision to marry. It was a calling out into the unsure territory of the adult life, not certain of the end of it all or even the way stations along the path.
Others here may remember a time in your lives when you were called by God to terminate a relationship—say, to enter into a divorce—because the relationship had turned unhealthy at some point. You said yes to that step, knowing it was a leap of faith into the unknown, through significant suffering and onto more times of blessing. You did it because you sensed that this was the correct choice for everyone. And you were blessed to be a blessing through it, following God’s calling into the unknown.
And what of our corporate life here in the parish? We too are called into an unknown place by God’s leading, and we are blessed by our obedience to the call. Several years ago we felt the call to renovate our facilities and we did; and we have been blessed and have been a blessing to others. Two years back we felt the call to commit to drilling a well in western Uganda to improve the health and the lives of several hundred people there. We did that, and we have been blessed to be a blessing to that community near the tea fields.
Right now we’re discerning in the Vestry about where God might be calling us, out into the neighborhood, into unknown territory. But we sense blessing behind it all, and we trust that God is leading us well and won’t give up on us as we continue to listen.